Thursday, April 24, 2008

Trevor's Review of Enright's The Gathering

This was the only book on the 2007 Booker shortlist that I did not want to read. When it won, I was disappointed because I thought it looked too much like Banville's The Sea, and I did not enjoy my time with that book. However, I thought I needed to give The Gathering a shot. I was not pleasantly surprised.

Enright's The Gathering may have a some well written sentences, and it may be well structured both in sequence and theme, but I couldn't find the purpose? I did not feel that the structure was unique and, frankly, I'm getting tired of all of these books that are praised because of how many different ways the author can write a depressing sentence (Enright usually generates hers by showing the human being and its body at its basest). Those poetic depictions lose their impact (and really make me question the skill of the author--does she not know how to write another type of sentence?) when they are repeated line after line, page after page. There was no balance. I know that Enright was not attempting to balance this book. She admits that anyone not wanting to feel depressed should not read it. But just because she executed her intent does not make me appreciate it.

I don't shy away from depressing novels, but I at least hope feel somewhat what the narrator is feeling--in this case I did not care at all about the narrator. Her depression did not affect me, at least, not frequently enough. I recognize that this is partially a failing on my part; I really gave up on the book early and slogged my way through it. I honestly didn't think any shortlisted book was particularly worthy of Booker in 2007, but I at least found the others compelling. This one turned me off.

Though they are similar as both deal with present grief and a tragic past, this Booker is worse that Banville's The Sea. At least The Sea was written in beautiful prose. It flowed smoothly. Enright's is downright base and choppy. The only poetry is in how basely she describes sex and death with her disconnected, stiff prose. And even that runs dry after a few chapters.

The Booker judges say that they did not think this book would win when they first read it but that it is better with subsequent reads. Well, they had to read it more than once. I'm not willing to give it another try. I recognize that others enjoyed the book and felt it was very well done. But I can't get around to that view.
1 star out of 5

1 comment:

  1. I respect you thoughts on this one, Trevor...although I actually liked The Gathering, I can see where it would turn some readers off. I've read books much more depressing than this one - in many ways it interested me because of the questionable reliability of the narrator - what was truth and what was imagination?

    Thanks for this review - I think it is really great when differences of opinion can stimulate discussion about a book.